Jewish representatives in the UK have said tweaks to the Hamas charter are “nothing more than a PR stunt” after the terror group said: “We don’t hate the Jews.”
It comes after the Gaza-based militants revised their 1988 charter to say they would be open to the possibility of a settlement with Israel based on the 1967 borders, arguing that this would them “connect” with the world.
Hamas leaders took the opportunity to redraft the charter’s anti-Semitic wording, which articulated “a struggle against the Jews”. This has now been changed to describe their fight against “occupying Zionist aggressors”.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said: “The document gives us a chance to connect with the outside world. To the world, our message is: Hamas is not radical. We are a pragmatic and civilised movement. We do not hate the Jews. We only fight [those] who occupy our lands and kill our people.”
Israeli officials dismissed the changes as cosmetic, rather than substantive, while in the UK, Board of Deputies’ senior vice-president Richard Verber said it was “nothing more than a PR stunt aimed at detoxifying its image abroad”.
He added: “It does nothing to rid Hamas of its inherent anti-Semitism. The group continues to refuse to recognise the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination and its charter, which calls for the murder of Jews, remains in place.”
He said Hamas still had, as its ultimate goal, “the destruction of the world’s only Jewish State,” and urge journalists “to avoid handing a propaganda victory to what is still a terror organisation”.
Dr. Ido Zelkovitz, a research fellow at Mitvim, the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, said the redrafting was prompted in part by infighting between the political and military wings of Hamas, as well as “inter-generational” factors.
“When phrasing the new document, Hamas took into account the limitations of the Islamist rhetoric and the weariness it invokes among the Palestinian public and the Arab world,” he said.
“Hamas had to use a more moderate language, in order to get closer to Egypt that serves as its main external gate to the world. Hamas is also seeking a path to join the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), as a first step towards assuming the leadership of the Palestinian national movement.”
The charter tweaks came just days before Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C, amid continuing tensions over the hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
The hunger strike ringleader, convicted terrorist Marwan Barghouti, is thought to be the only Palestinian leader capable of agreeing a peace deal with Israel encompassing both Gaza and the West Bank, as he is well-respected by both Fatah and Hamas.